Chameleon Clipboards

It’s no secret that clipboards in all the major platforms suck, hence any number of third-party apps to do things like save multiple buffers (like Vi did in the mid-80s). There’s also initiatives like Ray Ozzie and MS’s Live Clipboard for transferring data between web apps and the like. For many years, Sony researchers have been playing around with Pick’N’Drop, where you pick something up from one physical device with a stylus and drop it onto another – conceptually, the data is sucked into the stylus whereas of course the network and OS work behind the scenes to make the magic happen.

Anyway, here’s something I want: The ability to decide how an item is pasted. There’s a general concept – I don’t know what it’s called – where the paste format degrades to the level that the incoming application will accept. ie If you cut some HTML, the app you paste into can then receive it with links and all if it’s capable of doing so; otherwise the format might degrade to rich text; then regular text; then nothing at all if even regular text can’t be pasted. But sometimes you want to decrease granularity. If I cut-and-paste some coloured text from an email, I want to keep the text, not the colour. Similarly, I might want to paste other info relating the clipboard – e.g. paste the wordcount or paste the first frame of a video I’ve captured. And stuff like that.

2 thoughts on Chameleon Clipboards

  1. this is almost exactly how OS X works. When something is copied it copies an object to the clipboard and depending on the application you paste into, it could come back out in any number of representations.

  2. I know that MS Office has something like that (or did – I haven’t used Office in a very long time). You can either Paste, or Paste Special. Paste just pastes text while Paste Special pastes formatting.

    Of course, ideally a ‘paste special’ should show you all the available formats as well as what you can degrade them to. And it should work with any application. That should be relatively easy to do on Winodws. Linux/Unix is another ball game, although the freedesktop.org clipboard specifications should help along these lines.

    Now if only the browser vendors could come up with a safe and cross-platform way to handle the clipboard with web pages :)

    Michael

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